Chapter five

Working with an Assistant Recruitment Agency

Most Assistants will work with a recruitment agency when conducting a job search. These are the steps to take to make it work for you.

Working with an Assistant Recruitment Agency

Dealing with recruitment agencies can be a mixed bag, and it can be a frustrating experience, particularly if you are desperate for a new job.

In my experience, some terrible agencies out there don’t understand the Assistant role and will put Assistants forward for jobs that are unsuitable for them.

Dealing with employment agencies like this can be exhausting and a complete waste of time.

There are dedicated recruitment agencies out there who understand the role and want to place candidates in the right organisations, but you need to know how to work effectively.

In this chapter, we will cover:

Five considerations when working with recruitment agencies

Working with an Assistant Recruitment Agency

Here are a few things I’ve learnt about agencies over the years:

  • Agents are salespeople. They are there to broker a deal between you, the candidate and the organisation who are their client. The agent’s interests are in the organisation, not you. Most agencies want to place a candidate in a position that they have experience in, ideally one that they have done in the past and have a proven track record. This is great if you are looking for an identical job to the one you have currently but not brilliant if you want to move up the career ladder or try a new industry. This is why you need to tailor your resumes before approaching an agency; otherwise, you will end up doing what you have always done.
  • Agents are not there to further your career. They want to find several suitable candidates, place one in the role at a cost-effective price that makes them commission and keeps their client (the employer) happy. Agencies have several jobs and will select the candidate that fills the requirements, and they won’t proactively look for a role that suits you personally. It is worth bearing that in mind when you are looking for a new role. Ensure you are clear with the type of position you want and stick to it so that the agency doesn’t keep sending you unsuitable opportunities.
  • When applying for jobs through a website such as LinkedIn, or, do make sure your CV has all of the keywords appropriate for the job you are applying for. The agencies will only call you if your CV has passed their keyword algorithm.
  • Quality, not quantity. When you first start job hunting, only join a few agencies so that you are not bombarded with calls. If your search takes longer than you thought, you could join a few more depending on how urgently you need to find a new job. Remember, it is quality, not quantity, and as I’ve already said, some agencies are better than others.
  • Interview them too. Once you are invited to see an agent remember that they are gatekeepers to the organisation you want to work for, do think of it as an interview. Dress appropriate and be prepared to answer questions about your career to date and experiences. Also, remember that you can interview them too; they are making money out of you, so you have every right to make sure they are the kind of agent you want representing you.

10 questions to ask a recruitment agent

Working with an Assistant Recruitment Agency

Here are a few questions that you can ask the recruitment agency to help you get a sense of how hard they are working to place you in a relevant position and not wasting your time.

1. What type of organisations do you tend to recruit for?

If you have always worked in Insurance and want to stay in Insurance, a recruitment agency that only has clients in the hospitality industry will not find you a relevant role.

2. Who are your top clients?

This will give you an idea of the organisation you can expect to work in and also the calibre of the agencies clients. If you are used to working for a global organisation, you will want to know they have similar clients.

3. How do you select the candidates that go forward for job interviews?

It is useful to know how the agency selects its candidates. Is it solely based on qualifications and experience, or do they spend time speaking to the candidate and finding out a little more than what they can read on the CV?

Ultimately you can spend hours speaking to a recruitment agent, and they will still select you for a role-based only on your experience but at least asking this question will give you a chance to see how they react to it and if their answer is genuine.

4. How will you keep in contact with me, and how often should I expect to hear from you?

I have spent my hours chasing recruitment agents, for example, to find out if my CV was forwarded, if there was any feedback following an interview and if I actually got the job.

It can be a nightmare.

Again this question will give you an idea about their communication methods.

5. Do you have any positions at the moment that match my preferences (type of role, location, salary, industry etc.)?

It is worth asking this question straight away. Why waste your time even registering with them if they don’t have any jobs that you want! There are loads of recruitment agencies, and only some of them will be suitable for you.

6. Have you got any feedback on my CV?

What I really mean is: “have you definitely read my CV!”

7. How many people are you putting forward for this job?

Once you have been selected for a job, this question will give you a sense of what and who you are up against.

8. Which skills make me suitable for this role?

The agent will have spoken to your potential employer about you and your work experience, so it is worthwhile finding out what they said to the organisation and what skills they have promoted on your behalf.

The answers to this question will also help with your interview prep.

9. Have you placed people with this firm before?

If they have placed people in this organisation before, you can ask a lot more questions about the organisation’s culture and what they expect of their employees.

10. If so, can you tell me a few details about their personality type?

I asked this question to a recruitment agent, and they said the personalities tend to be quiet and studious. The organisation was an old law firm, and they were not a particularly social bunch, in other words, not an organisation where I wanted to work. I didn’t go for the interview because it would have been a waste of time, and I would have hated working there.


Next Chapter:

Preparing for an Assistant Interview

Chapter six